SAN JOSE – A busy developer with global reach wants to bring a curved pavilion that toured London and Toronto to downtown San Jose, a temporary event center that could make the urban core of the city more vibrant.
The Serpentine Pavilion, a shapeshifter of an event center, is to become the centerpiece of a key block in the South First Area (SoFA) of downtown San Jose, according to a proposal from developer Westbank, who owns the site.
Westbank is looking for a number of uses for the Serpentine Pavilion, which was designed by the world-famous architecture and design firm Bjarke Ingels Group, in downtown San Jose.
“The exhibition would host approximately 308 individual events, including artist talks, a series of lectures, courses and workshops, private events, public readings, dance, music and theater performances, fashion shows, film screenings, multimedia events, and design charrettes,” states in a city employee report.
Serpentine Pavilion, elevated view, in the Kensington Gardens complex in London. The Serpentine Gallery can be seen at the bottom right. // Bjarke Ingels Group
Canada-based Westbank, a high profile and respected developer who endorsed the unique structure, will build the Serpentine Pavilion in a location known as the Valley Title Block bounded by East San Carlos Street and South First Street, East San Salvador Street and South Second Street.
“The multiple activations that will take place in and around the Serpentine will help downtown recovery from the pandemic,” said Scott Knies, executive director of the San Jose Downtown Association.
The eye-catching pavilion consists of around 1,800 fiberglass frames that are stacked and arranged in a cave-like, curved passage.
“This is the highest level of placemaking and San Jose needs to be the standard, not the exception,” said Bob Staedler, chief executive officer of Silicon Valley Synergy, a land use consultancy.
Staedler believes the Serpentine Pavilion is great for downtown San Jose.
“Let’s not keep the old standards as they are, let’s push ahead,” said Staedler.
The Serpentine Pavilion has developed into an international traveling exhibition that stops in London’s Kensington Gardens and Toronto, among others. The West Bank had the idea of sending the pavilion on a world tour. The structure can be assembled and then disassembled to enable your tours.
City officials and West Bank executives believe the Serpentine Pavilion will be the focal point of an exhibit that can activate the SoFA district through free programs for the public as well as private events, San Jose planners said.
The exhibits could also be used to inform about the numerous and dramatic development projects being planned by an alliance between the West Bank and local developer Gary Dillabough’s urban community in the city center.
Westbank and Dillabough have proposed several major projects in downtown San Jose, including the large Valley Title property, which is currently mostly an above-ground parking lot and an aging office block.
The Serpentine Pavilion is scheduled to be built in the SoFA district in downtown San Jose for six to eight months from September this year and depart in February or April 2022.
“This is the ideal spot for the serpentine,” says Knies. “How can the West Bank present its projects better than in this short-lived pavilion that becomes a goal in itself.”
San Jose City officials believe the pavilion can make a huge difference in downtown San Jose.
“The exhibition will help create a more complete community in the city center by enabling a parking lot with temporary pedestrian-oriented use that offers art and entertainment experiences,” the city officials said. “It will support the development of the inner city as an art, culture and entertainment center.”
Collection areas in the Serpentine Pavilion during his performance in London’s Kensington Gardens. // Bjarke Ingels Group